By Amy Tennery NEW YORK (Reuters) -Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel defended his decision to play Tua Tagovailoa against the Cincinnati Bengals Thursday, as the quarterback left on a stretcher due to a head injury days after he cleared concussion protocols during a Sunday game. The 24-year-old was sacked by Bengals defensive tackle Josh […]
NFL-Dolphins coach defends decision to play Tagovailoa after Sunday hit
By Amy Tennery
NEW YORK (Reuters) -Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel defended his decision to play Tua Tagovailoa against the Cincinnati Bengals Thursday, as the quarterback left on a stretcher due to a head injury days after he cleared concussion protocols during a Sunday game.
The 24-year-old was sacked by Bengals defensive tackle Josh Tupou in the first half and appeared to hit the back of his head on the turf.
Fans were left horrified as his fingers briefly contorted into a “fencing posture” and he remained on the ground for a few minutes as trainers attended to him and carried him off the field.
He was taken to the hospital but released Thursday night and McDaniel confirmed to reporters Friday that he flew home with the team, experiencing persistent headaches that had not abated as of Friday morning. He was expected to undergo an MRI on Friday.
The Dolphins lost the game 27-15 for their first defeat of the season.
In a Twitter post Friday afternoon, Tagovailoa thanked fans for their support and said he was “feeling much better.”
The injury amplified fierce criticism over the decision to play him Thursday after he was also evaluated for a concussion on Sunday during the Dolphins’ win over the Buffalo Bills.
He looked unsteady as he left the field but passed the league-mandated concussion protocol at halftime and was allowed to return to the game. He was determined not to have suffered a head injury.
McDaniels told reporters Tagovailoa was cleared by “several layers of medical professionals” after the hit on Sunday.
“Those people – the collection of them – cleared him of any head injury whatsoever and he had a back and ankle issue,” he said. “So in terms of deciding whether or not to play a guy on a game, on a Thursday night game, I’m concerned about his lower back and his ankle and putting them in harm’s way.
“I have 100% conviction in our process with regarding our players – this is a player-friendly organization.”
The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) said after Sunday’s game it was initiating an investigation into the handling of the concussion evaluation, while the NFL said a review was ongoing but every indication was that proper protocol had been followed.
“Player health and safety is at the core of the union’s mission. Our concern tonight is for Tua and we hope for a full and speedy recovery,” the NFLPA said on Thursday.
NFLPA President JC Tretter said on Friday that the organisation would move to “hold those responsible accountable” for the decision to let Tagovailoa play and suggested it may be necessary to amend existing protocols.
“We need to figure out how and why the decisions were made last Sunday to allow a player with a ‘no-go’ symptom back on the field,” Tretter said on Twitter.
The Dolphins did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
NFL Chief Medical Officer Allen Sills said in an interview with NFL.com on Friday that all gameday concussion evaluations are done by both a team physician and an independent neuro-consultant with no affiliation to the team.
“We’re still doing a very active review of the entire situation,” he said. “There are very serious consequences if the protocol is determined not to have been followed.”
He added that the review needed to finish before the league should make “any determination” on changing concussion protocols.
“If we feel like we need to make adjustments collectively with the players union, we’re absolutely committed to that,” Sills said.
(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru and Amy Tennery in New York; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Christian Radnedge)